This past September, I shared my 2024 societal concerns with my friend, including societal danger points over the next year (including forms of violence and civil war, for example).
From his feedback and our exchange, I realized’ metaphorically, there is an angry crowd standing in the street and I was talking to them from the doorway of my house (through the essay I shared with him).
What my friend was telling me was that I needed to get out of the doorway, walk over to the angry crowd on the street, and say what I needed to say. And so, I'm working my way towards that vision. Blogging is one of these steps.
As incomplete as I am, I’m saying what I need to say. And, I'm sharing it on my blog, as a foundation, because I'm a writer and I want others to benefit as well.
“So despite all the lies being told about me in the press, despite the prosecution’s insane theory woven out of whole cloth—a sex game gone awry—I believed, as did my lawyers, as did my family, that the adults in the room would eventually clear this whole mess up.” - Amanda Knox, The Life I Refused to Surrender
Republican leaders should be having an intervention with their constituents, as I would with my child when they get off track, but they are instead abdicating responsibility as they participate in the deception and become part of the crazy party. Instead, I, an alienated Republican citizen, without any power, have to be the the responsible adult in the room.
And while we still love the crazies, want to help them, and have something to learn from them, we don't want them in power. We also don't want people in power who appease the crazies or who simply see the role as a game to exploit for personal benefits. The people we want in power are those who take it seriously (even when we disagree), value participatory government (democracies and republics), and who value truth over power.
So, let me explain how I'm thinking and why this is unfolding for me now.
Writing Helps Me Think Through Complex Issues
“If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.” - George Orwell
As a result of the pandemic and societal chaos of 2020, we Americans were forced to face issues that we would have otherwise preferred to avoid. Many tried hard to do just that.
One of the dynamics of writing my book about the cross is the idea of looking at that thing that I don't want to look at. It's to stare at the dark things (inside and outside of us) directly. And it’s something we can do because of the grace of God.
So for me, writing on these issues is a way for me to process and make sense of the chaos. It's a way to create a model that helps me more effectively navigate reality, and then share it with others who want to do the same.
By publishing first, I’m pioneering so others who follow can trek more easily down the path I've gone; as many have done for me.
As a result of my interactions with my community, the extensive reading I've done over the past few years, and the research I've done for my upcoming books, there is also a lot inside of me that needs to come out.
I’ll expand on this point, but let me first explain what I mean by model thinking.
What Is Model Thinking?
"Our brains work like computers: They input data and process it in accordance with their wiring and programming. Any opinion you have is made up of these two things: the data and your processing or reasoning. When someone says, "I believe X," ask them: What data are you looking at? What reasoning are you using to draw your conclusion?" - Ray Dalio
I don't want to be caught off guard. I don't want to be blind-sighted.
So, I want the best model for understanding reality so that I can best navigate it. A bad model will make us vulnerable in unexpected ways. A good model will help us thrive.
A map is a conceptual model of a terrain. It is not the terrain but it helps us operate in it.
I think in models so that the models can be improved and critiqued by myself and others so that it becomes a closer overlay of the complex reality we operate within. This way of thinking is anchored by a prioritization of allegiance to truth over power.
This helps shift the dynamic between what you think and what I think to a model we can both work on solving problems together. How do we best make sense of the world or a particular part of it?
If you want to change my mind, help me update my model to include elements you see that I’m missing.
Models have three base components.
Inputs, how we process that information, and the claims we draw from the processing.
To improve a model, add relevant inputs and/or identify problematic or better processing of the inputs to draw stronger conclusions (claims).
Here’s a great example of this approach as it relates to the hospital bombing early on in the war in Gaza.
2020 and Jan 6 Was a Milestone Moment and I Have Regrets — Specifically Stepping Into the Political Issues at Hand
The Jan 6 insurrection disrupted the peaceful transfer of power. This power struggle, which culminated in Ashli Babbit being shot, was based on lies, encouraged by our constantly lying former president, and embraced by many of his supporters who forced themselves into the capital building from the DC rally. People were hurt and died on that day, and in the fallout to come. It could have been much worse.
Some people want to see this wretchedness for what it was while others want to dismiss it. The dismissal and defense of Jan 6 is likely to ramp up by Republicans as they entrench with Trump as their likely nominee.
That which we deny or dismiss is that which we want to happen again.
"[our] attitude towards a specific event in the past reveals [our] specific intent towards the future....
What do neo-nazis means when they say the Holocaust didn't happen? They mean they would like for it to happen again.
When [we] deny a specific crime that people with whom [we] identify carried out in the past, [we're] affirming that crime." - Timothy Snyder, The War in Ukraine and the Question of Genocide
So for me, Jan 6th was a milestone moment I watched unfold live on Twitter. It was something I saw coming way before it happened. And it was then that I watched an insurrection unfold in real time.
“You must [cognitively] empathize with [rivals] to get what they are doing and why.” - Kamil Galeev
How did I anticipate January 6 as a danger point?
By looking at the 2020 election disinformation about the election being stolen, I imagined myself believing that lie as if it were true. I followed that belief to its logical conclusion.
This exercise is called cognitive empathy and It’s essential to understand those who differ from us, particularly rivals and adversaries. This is a talent I’ve been developing by working on my book while also applying the skill to circumstances over the past several years.
“Emily Harding, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes that intelligence collapses like 9/11 and October 7 2023 [in Israel] “are often failures of imagination.” They occur when leaders and analysts “neglect to think as big and as ruthlessly as their enemy.” - James B. Meigs, ‘They Forgot to Be Afraid’
This ability is not something citizens in a peaceful society often need to do, but the world is changing and now that the wolves are in the hen house, we’ve got to learn and practice these new abilities.
Based on the premise that the 2020 election was stolen — which it was not — I imagined what I would have done in response to that belief and having an allegiance to Trump. What would I do and when would I do it?
In line with the 2020 riots, the FBI reports at that time, and other social media chatter after the presidential election, my cognitive empathy pointed me to January 6th, 2021 as a danger point.
So, what surprised me was not that Jan 6 happened, but that those in authority over the security of the capital failed to prepare for what was coming. If I saw it, why didn’t they? Now that we know from the Jan 6 hearings that they did know, why didn’t they act?
Ultimately, it seems like a failure of cognitive empathy, among other factors.
It’s this very question I see Israelis asking about the October 7th, 2023 massacre by Hamas. What Hamas did was evil. It's been called the 9/11 for Israel.
Why are we humans so naive about accepting and facing evil, especially in ourselves (versus others)? And what do we do with the reality that as much as we navigate around it, we’ll always have to live with it in the world, our society, and ourselves?
I’d prefer for Jan 6 to have been the turning point for America, but it is instead shaping up to be an appetizer.
The least I can do is let the experiences of 2020 and Jan 6 change me for the better so that I can become the person who would speak and act should circumstances press upon me in the future.
I want to be the leader that those who led me failed to be.
After the capitol insurrection unfolded I came to regret not speaking up and conveying my concerns about what I saw coming, to those in authority, and those I interacted with directly, including someone who went to the Jan 6 DC rally.
I’m not responsible for what the insurrectionists did, but I am responsible for how I conducted myself in ways that connected to what happened. These are ways for me to grow.
A Citizen’s Duty
So the lessons learned comes from asking myself, how could I have positively contributed to dynamics to minimize the negative effects of people’s poor choices? How do I become someone who willingly accepts the reality of evil and faces it proactively?
Times in my life, I’ve wanted or intended to do wrong things, but outside forces either drove me to reconsider or stopped me altogether. For those providential forces, I’m grateful.
How can I participate in creating these positive dynamics for others?
This is a key dynamic to effective parenting. With fellow adults, it’s a different dynamic because we have agency. But, we all have the opportunity to intercede in the lives of others, as God interceded for us on the cross. And we are also dependent on each other for our rationality, so we need others to help us see clearly when we do not. We go insane in isolation or echo chambers.
So, as part of my duty as a citizen, I need to become a more mature person and part of that process is understanding, speaking out, and sharing. And that is part of why I'm sharing more in my small sphere of influence.
In addition, I've also gone on a journey and come to conclusions that many people have failed to reach on their own or through the societal and political process. This dynamic is an adjustment I'm making in my model to recognize that we all need to go on the journey and learn together. If not, we will repeat the horrific lessons, of the past that we have not learned from, in the present.
For example, many Republicans had/have doubts about the 2020 election or believe outright, that Trump won by a large margin. When the election happened, I had questions too. We have to want the truth to find it, but for those caught in the confusion rip tide and want help I intend to give them a hand as well as receive one when I need it
In the scenario that the 2024 election is going to be close, a few small actions will have a large impact on what seems to be a highly concerning election cycle, once again. 2024 looks to be the sequel to 2020 and most sequels are bigger than their predecessor.
Hopefully, I'm wrong about all of this.
Either way, I aim to maximize the positive effects so that we can move towards thriving together and get as far away from worst-case scenarios that seem dangerously close.
And I want to process the emotions now, so I’m better anchored during the wild year ahead of us.
As a regular citizen, I'm taking the step. But for it to matter, all the non-crazies are going to have to do it together.
My encouragement to you and other non-crazies is to do the same, at least processing things privately. Start sharing and talking with people you know offline beginning with those that would not be antagonistic. Work your way towards sharing in a context that will bring out the antagonizers.
And if you're ready to share publicly, take small steps in that direction.
Societal Essays I've Written To Date
So far, here are the essays I've written this year, in the past several months exploring what’s wrong with society, how Republicans have alienated me, what’s unfolding, and how we move forward.
Here are several from 2020 that would be worth revisiting as well.
Here are several essays I’ve got in the hopper.
- The Power Dynamics of Tribalism That We’re Under-Equipped to Effectively Navigate — The Evolving World of Terror, Cancel Culture, Pressure Campaigns & DisInformation
- What Is Happening Between Republicans & Democrats? The Delusional Bubbles Both Sides Live Inside & Why Society Can't Flourish Until Both Sides Step Outside Their Bubbles
- The Wolves Are In The Hen House & They're Breeding
- There Is No Such Thing As Neutral Objectivity — And Why We Should Seek Multi-Perspective Dialogue Rooted In Shared Values Instead
- Easy Frameworks For Choosing Your Next Political Leader, Tips For Dealing With Fixed Mindsets & Delineating Good & Bad Faith Conversations
- The Moderate Framing — How We Prevent America From Being Taken Over By The Radicals (On the Left & Right)
- A Powerful Model For Effectively Withstanding the Propaganda Firehose - Anchoring the Central Issue
- Operating In The Garden Versus The Wild
- Fact Selection, Reductionism, Shaping The Narrative We Need, Being Exploited by Leaders, And Enabling More Nefarious Acts
- How Authoritarian Leaders Get You To Sell Your Soul And Be Excited About It
- Three Things I Want For And For and From American Citizens
Because I don’t earn an income from writing, I have to pace what I write and publish, but if you believe in the mission of the work I’m doing, I’d be able to allocate more time if you consider supporting me.
You can donate here.
And, if you have ideas or questions you want me to write about, please contact me.
Bonus: A Note On The Emergence of My New Book — The Glass Box
Since 2020, I've been working on another book. Before I titled it, redeeming society, but I've since changed the working title to The Glass Box — Effectively Test the Untrustworthy and Wisely Probe Trusted Authority (Including Yourself).
The Black box is when information and inputs are processed in a hidden or obscured way. The glass box is the contrasting alternative, which is a transparent and open view into the processing of ideas and problems. It is the model thinking I mentioned above.
I wanted to provide a practical model for how we navigate the new world we're now inside and so I began working on this book in light of the 2020 societal chaos that culminated in Jan 6th.
Things have changed and are more complex than ever before. How do we navigate it all?
Here are a few working chapter titles.
- We're All Dormant Extremists: Which Type Will Come Out of You?
- Calm Down! We're All Going to Die! Intelligently Framing Emotionally Charged Issues Like Climate Change
- How Do I Know What I Believe Is True?
- The Wavering Middle Majority